Robert W. (Bob) Schewior has been Director of Tennis at the Chestnut Ridge Racquet Club in Mt. Kisco, NY since 1976. He has coached numerous juniors to national rankings and his adult teams have often made it to playoffs in USTA leagues. He has been a certified USPTA Professional for over 25 years.
Bob played #1 singles for Rutgers University from 1971-73. In the late 1970’s and early ‘80’s, he was Westchester County Champion as well as Westchester County Indoor Champion several times. In 1980 he was the New Jersey State doubles champion. Bob reached his peak as a player between 1987 and 1990, when he was ranked in the Top 20 in both the 35-and 40-and-over National USTA rankings in both singles and doubles. At that time, injuries forced him to retire from more active competitive play.
Bob has had two articles published in Gene Scott’s Tennis Week: Feel in Tennis, Feb. 7, 1980 and How to Watch a Match, July 2006. Both are available here on the site.
Here's Bob telling more about his early attraction and development as a player:
I began playing tennis at about the age of 9. Prior to that, I would accompany my father to the public park, intrigued by a game where the score could go from 40-15 to 3-1. What kind of game is this, I wondered, that can reverse the natural order of counting? Two years later, my first big thrill in tennis came when my father’s doubles game needed a fourth. He suggested me and they scoffed but ultimately accepted the offer as I was better than nobody, i.e. playing the notoriously dull Canadian doubles. When we shook hands at the end of the match, my opponents said that they would play with me “anytime.”
Completely self-taught, the pro at the local club where we played as a family was quick to inform me that I was “going nowhere.” Despite this, I managed to get ranked #3 in the ETA for Boys’ 14 and under. I competed and won against many “country club” kids with impeccable strokes and flawed wills. I knew one thing and knew it well – I knew how to give 110% whenever I competed. In retrospect, this was my first exposure to the idea that tennis is much more than beautiful strokes.
To say that I had zero instruction would be inaccurate. At the age of 12, I had 3 ½- hour private lessons at the Silver Thatch Inn in Pompano Beach, Florida with Warren Woodcock, a backup on the Australian Davis Cup team. He later became the Head Pro at Forest Hills. I spent the entire time trying to impress Warren that I was “good” and learned nothing in the lessons except that he had an exceptional volley.
I was an extremely accomplished “pusher” who could frustrate all except the top players in my age group. At the age of 14, my mom refused to come back to watch the 3rd set of a match which had been suspended by darkness the previous day after 3-plus hours of play – I was frustrating my highly-ranked opponent to no end. She told me to “hit the ball” and not to worry about the result. I hit the ball, I lost, and then I worried about the result.
My transition to becoming an all-court attacking player was filled with roadblocks. The first being my temper – in one high school match as a 10th grader, I threw my racquet into the fence a record 38 times, angry that my vaunted two-handed backhand was failing me. The next year became a year of reckoning as I began the season losing a tight 3-setter to Doug Grunther, who at season’s end became NJ State HS champion, only to lose to him 6-0, 6-1 in the last match of the year. It became apparent to me that I needed to change my game … and in a big way.
The following Fall, I developed my serve and volley game while playing practice doubles once per week. It was tough going at first, usually losing my serve. Gradually it came together and I was able to put together an aggressive game behind my serve. I completely gave up on my aggressive two-handed backhand for a one-handed slice which served me well as an approach shot.
But there was another missing component that was added prior to my last high school season: complete mental calm. An English teacher who refused to give up on me (I never did the reading) supervised my senior term paper. The subject was a comparison of The Upanishads (a Hindu holy book) with the Old Testament. The calmness, the ability to let go which embodied The Upanishads had a major influence on me and I transformed myself from the racquet throwing maniac of only 2 years earlier to a calm master of my own fate. In numerous matches, I came from behind simply by not panicking, i.e. believing in my game.
The highlight of this early phase of my competitive career came in the semi-finals of the NJ State Group IV High School Team Championships. We (Columbia HS, Maplewood, NJ) were to face Teaneck HS with #1 singles player Kevin McCarthy who would go on to be the #1 Boy’s 18 player in the ETA in 1969 and play for South Carolina. It was brutally hot on Memorial Day in Princeton NJ.
I won the first set 8-6 (before the days of tiebreakers) and he won the 2nd 6-3. I was serving at 1-4, 15-40, second serve in the 3rd. I went for a wide ace second serve into his forehand strength and made the shot. Soon we were deadlocked at 4-all when I was besieged by severe leg cramps. There was a fairly lengthy timeout during which time I was given salt tablets and told not to drink too much – it would cause stomach cramps (yes, I was playing in the Stone Age). At one point in the match, my right hand cramped around the grip, so I was forced to play with one grip only because any grip change resulted in severe spasms. I finally managed to win the set and the match 10-8 in the 3rd. The cramps had subsided – or so I thought. While showering at the Jadwin Gym, my entire body went into spasm. I was taken to the Princeton University infirmary where the doctor on duty gave me some sort of magic relaxation pill. The cramps stopped but the finals were scheduled for later that afternoon.
My teammates took me down to the courts in a wheelchair. I told my coach that I refused to default the finals – I was willing to lose 6-0, 6-0 but I would NOT default. My opponent for the final came over to congratulate me on my excellent effort in the semis and said: “It’s too bad we won’t be able to play.” He was a sophomore and I immediately sized him up as someone quite likely susceptible to being psyched out. So I replied: “Oh, I’m going to play. I’m just not ready quite yet. Maybe you can get someone else to warmup with.” He got someone from the stands to warm him up and, when I stepped on the court, he asked: “Would you like to hit a few?” “No thanks, I’m ready,” I responded.
The match began with him going up 4-1. I was just putting in an ‘appearance’, i.e. playing just for the purpose of not defaulting, when it occurred to me that I could beat this guy even though I couldn’t run – each time I tried to run, the cramps began anew. As the Newark Star Ledger reported: … forsaking his usual attacking net game because he couldn’t run, Schewior used placements and powerful topspin groundstrokes to force mistakes and eked out an 8-6, 6-3 triumph. I remember it a bit differently. I did serve and volley, but because I could not run, I walked in 2 steps after each volley. I was able to place my volleys well enough so that I forced my opponent to hit the ball back directly to me. By the third volley, I had walked into putaway position.
These early experiences formed the basis for my book. I hope you enjoy it.
Bob Schewior, 2017